Component Video Arrives…

After quite a bit of effort and (ahem) cost, I now have component video running out of the mini to my Toshiba HDTV. In the end, I am very pleased with the video quality and text is noticeably improved. It took a lot of trial and error for me so I’ll list what actually works. Your mileage will most likely vary based on what your TV or projection system might be.

First – it seems it’s absolutely required to use a transcoder in order to get the component to properly receive a signal. The two devices I’ve seen mentioned are the Audio Authority and the Key Digital. Key Digital is what I found locally in my quest (and desire not to wait yet another day for fedex), but it’s a bit more expensive, even via a discounted online reseller. The nice thing about the device for future use is that you can actually run a second VGA connected monitor through it at the same time you run an HDTV system. I don’t have that need today but who knows…

Second – You need a cable to connect between your VGA adapter on the mini to either of the Transcoders. They are both female and not expecting to see each other. I found a few varieties in my travels. I noted a cable yesterday, but instead I opted for a custom cable I found today at DataVision here in NYC. (The monster cable is only VGA and the cables I found today are SVGA and rated for larger screens.) It’s very similar to a cable from Belkin, though costs $10 instead of $30 (don’t buy it from Belkin for $60…) and actually reportedly has a higher level of output. I’m pleased with it. The part number is 800991116595 and I purchased the 6′ version… it was the shortest length I could find and I actually left most of it wrapped and bound.

Actually seeing my screen connected through component felt so good after a long (ok it was only a few days but still) road of effort. I was not psyched to see I could only get 640×480 however… When I initially connected things I was running  SwitchResX, but I’ve actually found DisplayConfigX ($12) to be much more friendly and I was actually able to use it. Unless you are intimately familiar with the litany of potential settings I would not tinker too much with SwitchResX. DisplayConfigX let me control the range for refresh and add or tweak a few settings for certain HDTV sizes and I was good to go. After a few adjustments and a reboot, I could tell DisplayConfigX was working for me so I purchased it.

The tricky part… You’ll have to really play with your HDTV rig in order to find what your system supports. For mine I can now do 896×504 960×540 and 1920×540 in addition to my original 640×480. I have it set to 960×540 at the moment and things are extremely easy to see from the couch, image quality is crisp and bright and I am generally very pleased. It took some time to get through all the resolution possibilities and I can actually probably do a few more. The main thing when trying is to note what HD formats your set can manage. Andy resolution ending in 480 will most likely work at 60Hz. If you can do 720p native you can also probably get 1280×720 again at 60hz. I had to customize the default 1920×1080 to 1920×540 – half but still configures as 1080. You might have to try some options like that as well if you are going this route.

The road was frustrating I hope it’s easier for you.

— Jonathan Greene

Have you ordered your Mac mini yet?




21 Responses to “Component Video Arrives…”

  1. Greg Says:

    I have a VGA input on my TV that is presumably SVGA. Assuming it is, should I go straight from DVI to VGA adapter (included with mini) to high end SVGA cable to the TV? Or do I still need to try and run it into the component inputs on the TV? In other words, is my (S)VGA input as good if not better than my component input? Thanks in advance. You’ve put a ton of work into this and we all really appreciate it.

  2. Jonathan Greene Says:

    VGA is a higher quality connection than Component so if you can do it and it works I’d go with that…

    Here’s a good link to check out for Video connection types – http://www.lyberty.com/encyc/articles/tech/video-connections.html

  3. Jay Brewer Says:

    I guess I’m a little lost too. Right now I have a G4 Cube hooked up via VGA – and the DVI input (I have a Syntax Olevia 30″ LCD) is being used by a samsung HD-841 – am I all set using the VGA if I get a mini?

    Also – I’m concerned with AUDIO – the cube so far sucks. The audio breaks up all the time.

    I’m also curious to know what player you use for DIVX on the mini?

    Love the site – great write ups.

  4. Jonathan Greene Says:

    Jay –

    Thanks for reading!

    I think you should be all set with VGA, the mini comes with the adapter for the DVI connector.

    For audio I use the M-Audio Sonica Theater, which has some quirks works very well at getting digital out of the mini to my Stereo through coax.

  5. Mac HTPC - The Mac Mini HTPC Says:

    Controlling Your Display
    So, yesterday I mentioned I was using DisplayConfigX instead of SwitchResX, but I’ve actually found I need them both.

    DisplayConfigX is definitely easier for discovering and limiting the possibly display configurations and I would recommend it to a…

  6. BruinToo Says:

    Actually, SwitchRezX is much easier to use than DisplayConfigX. I have both of them and have gotten rid of DisplayConfigX. You can easily anything in SwitchRezX what you can do with DisplayConfigX. In fact SwitchRezX is easier because one, the program places a shortcut right there in the System Preferences panel. Also it doesn’t matter what program one uses. All the parameters are the same no matter what program. PowerStrip for Windows, SwitchRezX or DisplayConfigX for Mac OS, etc. The trick actually with these HDTVs is not to input the refresh rates, but start out with the “PIXEL RATE” (in MHz). The program then automatically calculates refresh rates based on that pixel rate.

  7. SStrungis Says:

    Hi folks,

    This is confusing to me…I am ready to take the Mini as TV box plunge. I want to play DVDs, music, and AVIs and MPEGs. I do not want to record anything yet. My TV is a Sony WEGA with Component jacks on the back. I also have Svideo, but would like to use the Components. I THINK I need the abovementioned transcoder box, and a cable to go from the Mini, to the box…Plus another cable to go from the box to teh set.

    Right?
    Scott

  8. Jonathan Greene Says:

    I think you are right… that’s what I needed to do in order to get component to work. S-Video works fine, but component is better. Just a matter of how much the extra money is going to sting when factoring your system cost. This enabled a cleaner picture which for text reading (like in iTunes) made a big difference.

  9. Peench Says:

    What Toshiba television do you have? Did you try the DVI input straight through from the Mini to the TV? I’m thinking of picking up a mini just for fun and to try out a Mac (I’m mostly a PC guy) and considered using one of my HDTV’s (my Toshiba) as a monitor. I’m not sure if the DVI out from the mini will interface with the DVI in on the TV. Rather than re-invent the wheel I thought I might pick your brain a bit. Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.

  10. Jonathan Greene Says:

    I have the CW34X92. No DVI though… I have to convert the signal

  11. Peench Says:

    Ah. Thanks for the info and quick response. I guess I can always pick one up and give it a try. I’ll search around a bit more and see if I can find anything online. If I can’t, I’ll definitely let you all know if it works out for me.

  12. devros Says:

    Could people list the exact settings they used to get thier mini working with their televisions? not just the resolutions, but the nitty gritty stuff like front porch, etc…?

    thanks,

    -dev

  13. Orphic_Egg Says:

    Devros; Yes, that is the crux of the biscuit isn’t it? I managed to get my Toshiba and mini to play nice using a transcoder and DisplayConfigX. It wasn’t perfect, there was still a bit of overscan, but quite usable. Then my harddrive died w/o a backup and when I got it all put back together I could not for the life of me get the display configuration right again. Then I found a posting on AVS forums that caused me to buy a DVI to HDMI cable, and most important, a copy of Tiger. In Tiger there is a new checkbox in the display configuration that allows you to turn off overscan. After loading Tiger OS X the system recognized the 62″ Tosh and once I turned off overscan the picture was perfect with a nice thin, even black boarder all around. Much easier! I sure hope this info helps someone avoid the pain and frustration I went through.

  14. Jonathan Greene Says:

    I was never able to get it to full resolution. Tube displays have fixed resolutions…

    I am currently shopping a new HDTV and have recently hooked another mini to a new Apple 20″ Display which is amazing.

  15. Jonathan Greene Says:

    Like I said, I never quite got it. If you figure out some magic settings I’d be very inteerested in hearing what you got to work.

  16. Jonathan Greene Says:

    I was having the same overscan issues… Though I literally upgraded the machine to Tiger today – since my non-standard display (the TV) would not run the default screen res to let me install an OS previously. My new 20 inch panel was able to pinch in. Tiger actually has an option to tweak whether you want overscan on or off so that might actually help us both.

  17. James LeFevre Says:

    Tried both vga to component adaptor and direct dvi. Using TI powerbook and vga to component adaptor and switch res x was able to tune in a perfect picture on my 60 inch Hitachi LCD rear projector NO under or over scan. Wrote down the reading, entered them in a mini and couldn’t get a picture. Heres the problem. The powerbook senses the built in display and I was setting up on the attached display. This always gave me a working display to work with and make changes. The vga to component adaptors work but give no feedback to the computer on what type of display is connected which lets the computer guess badly and produces unusable resolutions. Thats why I could not get the mini to work. The tv was the only display and it could not be sensed. Connecting the mini using dvi solved that problem. Now the mini showed HITACHI RPT and automatically selected usable displays. Now that I had a picture I tried the TURN OVERSCAN OFF. Now I hadd a 1 inch black border all around. I was not willing to give up all that realestate so I turned overscan back on and set up a custom resoultion under switch res x. Now if you don’t believe anything else believe this. Find out what the native resolution of your HDTV is and start there. On the Hitachi is is 1280 by 720. That means 720P scanning. Therefor use a 44 hertz(this rate causes the tv to go to 720P) horizontal rate and a 60 hertz vertical rate ( give or take a hertz). Put about 50 in all of the porches, about 135 in the horizontal sync and about 5 in the vertical. Load it up and reboot. After restart select the new resolution and take a look. Go back to the custom menu and start trimming. The sizine arrows on the right are very nice. Remember that the position arrows on the top right work just backwards. If the picture needs to movve down then use the up arrow. Etc. Width and Height work as expected. Save it, reboot, and try again. Remember that you must switch in and out of your new resolution a couple of times. This is because your resolution may not take effectunless it is turned on and off. If your custom resolution disapears after a reboot in the monitor pull down list the you have exceeded some realistic value. Go back and change back to an oldeer value and try again. Once you have it working use the switch res x panel that lets you define the relolution for the detected display (Hitachi PRT in my case ) and select the one you made. Now when the Tv starts and DVI detects the display it will use the one you made. Now go and spend 300.00 for a 2 in one out DVI switch because your tv only has one dvi input and you are ready. So what values work. Every video card and every tv will produce a different value. The values I had on the power book with the vga to component adaptor were different than the DVI from the Mini on the same tv. Every tv overscans different and centers the picture different. There are no canned values. Good luck, patience, and time and you will have a very pretty picture with no over or underscan.

  18. Jeff Says:

    Has anyone tried the DVI to Component adapter from ATI instead of going from DVI to VGA to Component?

    http://www.ati.com/products/hdtvadapter/index.html

  19. Morgan Says:

    I tried the ATI DVI->Component adapter, and it is a $30 doorstop for me. Even though I got DisplayConfigX and set up the proper video modes that should work for SDTV/HDTV, none of them work with my Hitachi “HD ready” TV. Occasionally I could get a picture on the screen in 480p, but it was colored all wrong – I think the ATI adapter is outputting R/G/B rather than Y/Pb/Pr.

    There were directions on the ATI website that said using this adapter, it had to be the one and only display connected, and that it was necessary to boot in that configuration. I tried that several times, but got no signal. Of course, those instructions were for Windows boxes.

    For some reason, I think OS X is not supporting the proper Y/Pb/Pr output. In fact, even the DisplayConfigX website says it does not support these outputs.

    Time to sell my adapter to the PC crowd on Ebay and try something else, such as is described above.

  20. Jim B Says:

    Johnathan,

    Thanks for the walkthru of your ordeal getting the mac mini onto your Toshiba HDTV. I also own a Toshiba HDTV and have had *ZERO* luck getting the picture to align correctly (its about, 75 or so pixels to the left, just enough to bug me) 🙂 Could you do me a favour and post the settings you used in DisplayConfigX? What model Toshiba do you own? Thanks again!!

  21. D Says:

    I am not a newbie by any means, but I don’t have much experience with messing with resolutions like this. I’m trying to use DisplayConfigX but I just stare at the thing and dont know where to start. I was hoping ot find a walk through or screen captures even. I came up with none. I have a Mitsubishi rear projector tv. 55″. It can swing everything except 1080p. I’ve got it hooked up with a converter switching it to component cables and it looks better than with the S video I was using before but it still should look better I think. DVDs should be able to be perfect I would think. I dont know what kind of numbers I need to put where in this app. Someone please help. Thanks!

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